Work is expected to
resume in September on the renovation of the Pavilion at Indiana Dunes State
In a statement
released to the Chesterton Tribune on Tuesday, a spokesman for
Pavilion Partners LLC principal Chuck Williams said that final renderings of
the Pavilion plans should be ready for submittal to the state in late June.
“Once we receive feedback from the state, we hope to begin renovation of the
Pavilion around Labor Day,” said Steve Patterson of the Res Publica Group.
Patterson anticipates making an announcement soon of the LLC’s “partnership
with a well-known, family-friendly restaurateur to occupy both the
first-floor and rooftop spaces next summer.”
The renovation of
the Pavilion will continue through the winter with an opening of the
facility tentatively set for sometime in the spring of 2018, Patterson said.
Work was suspended
on the Pavilion in September 2015, after crews had gutted it and begun work
on an elevator shaft, pending the results--it was said at the time--of a
federally mandated environmental assessment.
transpired, however, that the National Park Service had jurisdiction, under
the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965, to conduct a full
review of Pavilion Partners’ plans for the Pavilion and the proposed banquet
center. Specifically at issue: the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’
legal obligation to maintain in perpetuity, as public outdoor
recreation facilities, all sites, footprints, and properties “assisted” with
federal moneys awarded through LWCF.
Dunes State Park
has been the beneficiary of several LWCF grants, including a $174,862 grant
in 1972 used to remodel the Pavilion.
It’s not illegal or
otherwise prohibited to change the use of a LWCF-encumbered public facility,
that is, to “convert” it into a non-public or non-recreational or
non-outdoor one. But such a conversion does have this legal
stipulation: the agency overseeing such a conversion must substitute, in
place of the footprint being removed from public or recreational or outdoor
use, “other recreation properties determined by NPS to be of at least equal
fair market value and of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location.”
In September 2016,
NPS concluded that putting a restaurant inside--and on top of--a renovated
Pavilion would not constitute a conversion of that structure’s
essential public outdoor recreation value. In particular, NPS cited the
following allowable uses: lifeguard station, general store, ice cream shop,
and different dining options, including beachside, sit-down, and roof-top.
On the other hand,
NPS did determine that the proposed banquet center would constitute a
conversion of the beachfront footprint at Dunes State Park. As Roger
Knowlton of NPS’ Midwest Regional Office noted at the time, in a letter to
DNR Director Cameron Clark and dated Sept. 16, 2016, “(B)ased on information
provided, we continue to believe that the banquet/conference center would
trigger a conversion. Although the facility would bring additional visitors
to the park, it seems these visitors’ primary purpose for visiting Indiana
Dunes would be to attend a function held in the facility making outdoor
recreation secondary to the facility event.”
visitors who come to the park primarily to recreate will not have access to
the facility,” Knowlton added. “Taken together, we believe these
circumstances would prevent the facility from being either secondary to or
supportive of public outdoor recreation, as required by the LWCF Manual.”
NPS’ finding means
that DNR will need to substitute a comparable piece of property for
the banquet center’s footprint. As of Tuesday, however, the DNR has
apparently not yet identified land for a suitable swap, DNR Director of
Communications Phil Bloom told the Tribune late on Tuesday. “I don’t
believe there is anything new to report on the LWCF front at this time,” he
does expect to break ground on the banquet center next year, Patterson
noted. “The banquet facility has always been envisioned as Phase II of this
project and we would look to begin that work sometime in 2018,” he said.